With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it seems an appropriate time to share an experience from my past that I always relive in my mind at this time of the year. I hope you find it interesting and that perhaps you will decide to adopt the idea, if you and yours don’t already do something similar.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s the story…

It was a frigid Thanksgiving Day in the mid-1980s. Due to weather concerns, several of my colleagues had opted not to travel home to spend the holiday with family. Instead we were gathered around a crackling fire sharing favorite holiday memories.

Some spoke of a very special time shared before the Thanksgiving meal–a time when each member of the family would take a moment to express their thanks for good things that had happened during the year. Others talked of similar experiences shared in their places of worship right before or after the passing of the holiday.

But one had a different story…a story that sticks with me to this day. It was a story of a tradition that had been passed down in her family for generations. They called it “Expressions of Gratitude.”

Here’s how it works.

After dinner everyone is asked to think about someone who has had a significant impact in their life. It could be friend, a mentor, a teacher, or a stranger…the only criteria is that somehow the person affected them in a positive way at some point during their life.

Everyone takes their turn sharing the story of how the person they have selected impacted their life. But they don’t stop there. Before anyone leaves the table, each person commits to reach out and express their gratitude to that person before the the end of the year.

WOW! What a powerful tradition and what a great way to remind everyone about the power we all have to impact the lives of those who cross our paths each day!


1. Take a few moments across the next week to think about the people who have had significant positive impacts on your life.

2. Find some way to reach out to them before the end of 2004 to express your gratitude…write a letter, make a phone call, send a greeting card, make a donation in their name to a charity they would support…let them know how important they were to you.

3. Find someone who needs your help and make yourself as important to them as someone once was to you…because that is what everyday leaders strive to do, every day!